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Archive for December, 2004


…. Steroids & Baseball, ad infinitum

Checking my backtalk, I found two new bloggers covering the Giants, Skaldeim and arbizu. Both can now be found in my Giants links section, and both were supportive of my seemingly screaming in the wind rants on the subject of steroids lately. Thank you, gentlemen.

On to the topic at hand; Barry Bonds has a new mud-slinger, and it ain't no reporter this time. Turk Wendell, in the Colorado Rockies camp, is the latest to accuse Bonds of using steroids, as reported by Mike and the Mad Dog, on WFAN in NY just minutes ago. I'm unable to find a link in print, but the gist of his comments were along the same lines of any of the reporters I've been linking to; obviously Bonds couldn't have gotten this big without using drugs. The fact that this line of thinking is provably false doesn't matter to Wendell, as it hasn't to most of the reporters running around screaming that the sky is falling.

Tell you what, the MLBPA has a serious problem on its hands when its members begin accusing each other of cheating without cause, especially publicly. I'd expect the top brass to send out a memo soon, outlining how exactly the membership is supposed to adress this explosive issue.

As for Wendell, I believe the two players have never been on the same team, so it's hard to give credence to his comments; (also, it bears noting that Wendell has something of a reputation for being a smart ass). Nonetheless, as noted on WFAN, this is an issue that is not going away, which, again, is the reason why I will continue to write about it in a reasoned and logical way.

Update…. Here's the link to the Wendell story.

In that vein, I'd like to address the latest story out of Scottsdale, in which Bonds explains that his personla trainer, Steve Harvey, is absolutely neccessary for his success. As MLB, (so quick to respond to a crisis, that Selig), is now going to expressly limit all clubhouse and on-field access to team personell only. Here's what Bonds had to say:

“I believe Harvey will always be with me. That's stretching. I've got to get ready for games. People need to understand that our body is our machine. This is how we make a living. If you have a car and run out of oil, you've got to go out and get oil. Stretching and my training is part of taking care of this machine. It takes care of my family, takes care of me and I'm going to do what I need to do to take care of my machine. It's the right thing to do, not the wrong thing to do.”

Now, as I am only a working stiff, and not privy to the levels of prima donna-ism Bonds is apparently guilty of, let me ask a few questions:

1. Whose job is it we're talking about here? Barry's.

2. Who is going to suffer if Bonds goes down with a hamstring pull? The fans, the team, MLB, and Barry, in no particular order.

3. Whose responsibility is it for Bonds to maintain his conditioning? Barry.

4. Who is going to get the ration of shit if he goes down? Barry.

I didn't see the commisioner's name at the end of any of those questions, did you? Nor did I see Murray Chass, Rick Reilly or Tom Verducci. Barry Bonds puts his ass on the line, day in and day out. He's done it for 18 years, and if he thinks he needs a guy to stretch out his legs, back, ass or whatever; do me a favor, and get the hell out of his way. If he needs a recliner, a masseuse, a pre-game blowjob, a martini, who's freaking business is it!? He's the best baseball player alive, and whatever he's doing is obviously working, you idiots! Leave him the f*$# alone!!



…. Merry Christmas

And a Happy Holidays to all. Thanks for a great year at OBM, and Best Wishes for the New Year coming up.



…. Dusty and me?

I know, it seems impossible that Dusty Baker and I could be in agreement about anything, and even more impossible that he reads OBM, but in this story, he equates the way reporters are specualting about steroid users to McCarthy-ism. Hmmmm… where have I heard that before? ;-)



…. Steroids and Baseball

I have continued to do research on this issue, as there appears to be little reason or thoughtfulness going on. I found this Marvin Miller interview (by Allan Barra), and I wanted to bring it to your attention, as well as post an excerpt or two:

AB Let me be devil's advocate again: If the players have nothing to hide, why would they be against random drug tests?

MM I have to say that it constantly amazes me how willing members of the press sometimes are to agree with the baseball owners that players should no longer be treated as citizens. I have to say I'm appalled when I pick up the New York Times and read a statement like “the rampant use of steroids will continue because the Players Association opposes mandatory testing.” How exactly was that conclusion reached and on what historical evidence is it based? I'm amazed at how willing some columnists are to simply waive a player's civil rights because he happens to be a professional athlete. Has anyone really thought this matter through? Have you given some serious thought to what random drug testing, if applied, might be?

AB I assume random would mean at the owners' discretion.

MM It seems to me that it would mean that or nothing at all, or how would it be random? What that means is that no player could, for instance, plan to go on vacation or out of the country or even out of his house overnight without the approval of Major League Baseball, because how would the player know that the random test wasn't scheduled to occur while he was away? And if you didn't limit random testing in some way, it could be used to harass any player who management chose to single out. If you had a big-salaried player who you felt wasn't producing, you could harass him into wanting to leave through constant random drug testing. Not to mention how a player's reputation might be sullied by this kind of practice.

That's another side of the coin we've hardly touched on, a player's rights as a citizen. It's plainly clear that most of the writers covering baseball have already decided the guilt of several players, (Giambi and Bonds primarily), completely denying these players anything resembling due process or holding them as innocent until proven guilty. But to add insult to injury, they've also decided that these players also should be forced to give up their right to privacy. I wonder if Rick Reilly would stand for such nonsense, random drug tests by his employer, SI; ones that he would automatically fail for not participating in, regardless of his whereabouts, circumstances, whatever. Ready to pee in a cup now, Rick?

Update

I finally found this ESPN article by former major-leaguer Jeff Bradley. In the piece, Jeff quotes Jose Antonio, an assistant professor of exercise physiology at the U. of Nebraska at Kearney:

…. “I could safely put any athlete on a cycle of anabolic steroids, and he'd get improvement in muscle mass, lean body mass and loss of fat, and his performance would go up, with no side effects. I guarantee it. There's plenty of evidence that the supposed ill effects of using steroids are way overblown. The P.C. thing to say is steroids are not safe, but the science doesn't support it. I believe that if you use a low dose, 600 milligrams or less per week, of testosterone enanthate or Deca-Durabolin, you can get great effects in terms of performance with no side effects.”

…. “I don't want to be labeled as a guy pushing illegal drugs, but there's scientific proof behind what I'm saying. If you look at professional bodybuilding, all the elite bodybuilders use gobs and gobs of anabolic steroids, higher doses than any baseball player would ever want to use, and they're not dropping dead. We have a slew of bodybuilders from the 1970s and 1980s who used anabolic steroids who seem fine. And most of them are so conscious of diet and exercise, they're healthier than society at large.”



…. There they go again


…. Slammed

That’s what I got for my last post. My response?

Matheny got $12 million for 3 years, Vizquel got $12 for three years, Alou got just shy of $14 for 2 years. Forget about the backloading and all that crap. The average cost of these players is $6, $4 and $4 million, or $14 million. So, yeah, you could easily have made a real pitch for Beltran, (as it is the Giants are still below last season’s payroll), instead of these “veterans.”

And, please, enough with the ‘calling a game’ bullshit already. The entire management team is involved in how the gameday pitcher will plan to go after the hitters. If Matheny’s so great, why were the Cardinal pitchers so mediocre? Are you trying to suggest that Schmidt was as dominant as he was because of Pierzynski?

Calling a game is another one of those “insiders” type of things that are used to explain why a “gamer” like Matheny can get $4 million a year even though there are probably fifteen minor league catchers who can hit just as well.

It’s just like Shawon Dunston’s ‘hustle.” There’s no way to defend the decision to spend that $14 million on these players pushing 40. It’s a mistake that the team will rue, as one or more of these guys will spend major time on the DL, forcing the Giants once again to pay players (Nen, Reuter, Snow, Benard) who don’t play or produce.

It’s a recipe for disaster to go into a season pinning your championship contention on even one key player who is in the decline phase of his career. To have a starting lineup with a 34-year old catcher, a 37-year old first baseman, a 33-year old second baseman, a 37-year old shortstop, a 31-year old third baseman, a 40-year old left fielder, a 37-year old center fielder, and a 38-year old right fielder…. well, that’s just ridiculous.

Are the players in question solid major leaguers? Sure, they all have track records of success to some degree. Sure, Matheny’s probably a joy to behold behind the plate. I’ve no doubt that Vizquel will run circles around Cruz. That ain’t gonna matter if he pulls a hamstring, or strains his groin or throws up a .690 OPS.

I’ll do the research in the morning, but there can be no doubt that these players, as a whole, will decline. The team was far more likely to see Torrealba bat .300 than they are to see Matheny do so. Alou’s runs created number will almost certainly be little more than what Mohr and Tucker combined to produce last season. See, it’s offense that separates the winners from the losers.

For $14 million, we did very little to strengthen the team at all. Great glove and all, these guys aren’t gonna hit any better than what we had. If they’re not gonna do that, then who cares how many errors we don’t make. It’ll never be enough. As I pointed out last week, the difference between the worst and the best defenses in the league is barely 75 unearned runs, make it a hundred, and you still can’t argue that any one player can overcome 400 outs made with his bat, with his glove. YOU CAN’T MAKE THAT ARGUMENT HOLD WATER. At least not here. Go congratulate Sabean if you’re gonna try, cause I ain’t listening.

Update: Kyle did some numbers-crunching, so I thought he should get some publicity.

Just so we’re all on the same page here:

Grissom – $2.75 mil
Benitez – $7.17 mil/year
Alou – $6.8 mil/year
Matheny – $3.5 mil/year
Vizquel – $4.08 mil/year
Tucker – $1.75 mil/year (last year and this)
Pierzynski – $3.5 mil last year
Hammonds – $1 mil last year
Guerrero – $14 mil/year

I averaged multi-year deals to the per year rate. Feel free to correct me if I have something wrong. Essentially, this offseason, the Giants spent $24 million and apparently have a little more they can spend.

Looking at this, I don’t see how they couldn’t have signed a Beltran and Benitez with a little backloading, and done without Grissom, Matheny, Vizquel and Alou. Mohr and Beltran replace Grissom and Alou and Torrealba and Cruz replace Matheny and Vizquel.

It gets a little more complicated, but I’ll bet if we do without AJ, Tucker and Hammonds last offseason, we probably could have arranged a contract for Vlad.



…. Your San Francisco Giants

So that’s it. For the second time in his career, Moises Alou will be playing for his father, according to this AP story that says the Giants had signed him to a two-year, $13.25 million dollar contract. It would seem that any further moves made by the team would be directed at improving the bench, as the team has pretty much put together one of the oldest starting lineups in baseball history. The starting outfield will certainly be one of the oldest ever, with 40-year old Bonds, 38-year old Grissom and the 39-year old Alou manning PacBell’s strangely configured grass.

I guess Michael Tucker and Tony Torcato would be late inning defensive replacements, (picture me laughing and weezing as I write these words), for the AARP outfield.

I mean, what else is Sabean gonna do? Here’s a suggestion…. Get some speed and leather to do just that, take over during the latter innings as the Giants try to protect a lead.

Update: Over at the Bad Lefty, you can see that the Giants are o-o-old. I mean, O-O-O-OLD! This team is so primed to lose hundreds of games to injury, I don’t know what to say.

Sabean makes no effort to get a player like Guerrero, or say, Garciappara, or Drew, or Ordonez, or virtuall any number of players under the age of 40 who could have been had. Instead of keeping Tucker and Mohr in right, and getting a real, young, fast player to man center, he’s gonna waste almost $14 million dollars on a guy who could get real old, real fast. Why?

Let me point out that the money wasted on Matheny, (whose production we would have easily matched with Torrealba), Vizquel, (whose production we would easily have matched with Cruz), and Alou, (whose production advantage over Mohr/Tucker would easily have been offset by the superstar Beltran), adds up to something in the range of $12 or $13 million per season. FOR THAT KIND OF MONEY, WE WOULD HAVE BEEN ABLE TO SIGN BELTRAN!!!!!

No matter how you look at it, a lineup that looks like this:

Durham 2B
Snow/Feliz 1B
Beltran/Grissom CF
Bonds LF
Feliz/Alfonzo 3B
Cruz SS
Tucker/Mohr RF
Torrealba C
Pitcher

Would have been just as potent (if not more) as the actual lineup that looks like this:

Durham 2B
Snow 1B
Grissom CF
Bonds LF
Alou RF
Alfonzo/Feliz 3B
Vizquel/Cruz SS
Matheny/Torrealba C
Pitcher

And it would have had the same payroll number, give or take a few million. It is an error that will probably haunt this team forever; because as I have written before, should this team fail to win a championship during Bonds’ historic run, Brian Sabean’s decision to surround Bonds with a bunch of thirty-somethings and has-beens will go down in baseball history as one of the biggest blunders of all-time.



…. More on Steroids and Baseball

I see from what little backtalk that I have gotten, there is essentially no interest in this line of dialogue, so perhaps I'll just let it go. I mean, come on, two comments after four days up? No one seems to care at all. Which, I guess isn't very different than the attitude I've encountered in my day to day. Most of my friends believe that athletes like Bonds and Giambi are on the juice, and most of them could give a shit.

In fact, I find it next to impossible to have a reasoned dialogue with anyone on the subject, as they essentially believe whatever headline they've read last. Which, in a way, is why I take the time to “defend he who has not been accused.” It's the reason I started OBM, Larry. So many of the mainstream media are putting out the same, thoughtless, almost criminally negligent BS, I started OBM so that there would be one place I knew for sure some thought would go into what was being written about the game I love so much. (Back then, I had about ten links to unpaid bloggers, everything else was major publications and columnists.)

And don't think I don't know how many mistakes I make, or how wrong I can be. I do. That's not the same thing as what I feel writers like Reilly and Verducci are guilty of.

You've seen the press conferences on ESPN, we all have. Forty writers ask a handful of questions, write the answers down, and we get forty of the same stories in slightly different form. Nobody seems to be doing any reporting. Nobody seems interested in facts, or research or proof. Innuendo and assumption and whatever the people involved tell them, make up most of what we read. Doesn't that matter? “Hey Barry, do you use steroids?” “No.”

Barry Bonds denies using steroids

There's your headlines. Does that make sense? Isn't there more to the story than that? Wouldn't it be reasonable to expect a story about one of the top players in the game to have some actual reporting in it? Isn't there an obligation to us, the readers, to go deeper than that?

Well, I'll drop it, for now. I'll get back to baseball, until I read something else that drives me insane.



…. Status quo

Are you prepared to see Tony Torcato playing right-field in 2005? According to this MLB report, Torcato, 25 years old, has continued to tear up the PCL, and will probably be given a chance to make the roster this spring. The Giants’ former first round pick in 1998 is batting .315 in winter ball. Perhaps that’s the reason Sabean chose to let Mohr go away.

In my book, that’s a poor reason; the odds that Torcato could match Mohr’s production would seem to be lo-o-o-ng.

Dustan Mohr’s career stats: .262/.339/.415 .754 OPS

Last year was his best, (.274/.394/.437 .831 OPS) as Alou deftly platooned him with Michael Tucker. Sadly, he’s gone, and as I have complained about this team long and hard, I though I’d look at what we have, instead of what we don’t.

Looking at the Giants’ depth chart, I like the way the bullpen looks. Brower, Eyre, and most interesting is the team’s apparent intentiom to use Foppert in long relief. After all the BS I’ve been sending Brian Sabean’s way, should this team land a real outfielder, this team will look pretty damn good. I still wish we’d gotten younger, but all in all, you can’t deny that we have upgraded ourselves in three areas that we were fairly deficient in last season; the bullpen, and defense up the middle, (SS and C). Of course, this doesn’t take into account our need for youth and speed, but, let’s not be greedy. The biggest caveat is that this is a one or two year team. And before we talk about what’s left this off-season, I believe I have finally seen the logic in Sabean’s madness.

This team is set to explode at the same time Bonds will retire. That’s it. That’s why the Giants have signed a bunch of thirty-somethings instead of getting younger and faster. The Giants have positioned themselves to be big players in the free agent market in the 2006 off-season. Remember, you read it here first.

So, who’s left to get as a banging outfielder? I don’t know, here’s Michael Dowd’s free agent outfielders list. In reality, it’s really down to these four guys:

Carlos Beltran, Houston .926 OPS
Jeremy Burnitz, Colorado .916 OPS
Magglio Ordonez, Chicago White Sox .836 OPS
Moises Alou, Chicago Cubs .918 OPS

As far as who’s left, these are the only guys with any pop. Anybody stand out as a possible Giant? Ordonez is coming off an injury year, Beltran wants the keys to the mansion, and Burnitz is a zero away from Coors. As much as I’d love to see the 30-year old Ordonez recover from his injury as a Giant, there’s almost no chance Sabean would do that. Ordonez isn’t old enough. So, of course, Sabean is gonna sign Alou. The guy’s old, he has ties to the manager, (duh), and he’s old. Did I mention he’s a veteran? Well, he is an excellent hitter, and we would have some backup, (Torcato and Tucker). As far as I can see, that’s all that’s left to do.

Update: Well, not that I’m Nostradamus, but I called this signing probably within an hour or so of it going down. And I have no inside information or contacts or anything. Well, enough of tooting my own horn.



…. Responding or despondent?

Many of you have been taking me to task for my criticism of the Giants recent moves. Basically, you’ve been saying that I have been one of the most vocal critics of the Giants when they have done nothing; why am I bitching now that they are doing something?

Well, doing something isn’t what I’ve been advocating. I’ve been advocating doing something to strengthen the team, to address the weaknesses that have been derailing them in their efforts to return to the WS. The Benitez signing is just that type of deal (albeit a bit expensive, but forget that for a moment), and I promptly recognized it as such. Benitez shores up the bullpen, and in fact; his signing makes it stronger in every area, as his work as a true closer will allow the other guys to operate within their most effective comfort zones.

However, the other moves made by the team seem, to me, to be wasting what limited resources (as we’ve been told) the team has. Jim Adams says that this is an appropriate response to the demand from fans to win now, as Barry Bonds is certainly playing his last season or two. I respect (and agree with) virtually everything Jom has had to say here at OBM, but on this point, I don’t.

The Vizquel and Matheny signings represent the worst of what I would call the “bad I know” syndrome that is part and parcel of the old way of doing business in this game. The “bad I know” is what had the Giants give Neifi Perez $4 million dollars. The “bad I know” is how Tony Womack is getting the same from the Yankees. The “bad I know” is how so many of you can argue that Vizquel is better than Cruz, or that Matheny is better than Torrealba.

No statistic or metric I’ve seen or heard about suggests that either position holds water, but Matheny and Vizquel have been starters for most of their careers, and Cruz and Torrealba have not; so there. Well, not so fast. The Giants needed, among other things, to get younger and faster. Torrealba meets that need, (although Cruz less so). Vizquel and Matheny may have been superior defensive players five years ago, but right now, they are marginally better at best, (according to Baseball Prospectus, the guys over at the Hardball Times, ESPN, and essentially anyone with a calculator).

In terms of expectations, there can be no doubt that the 26-year old Torrealba has far more potential to exceed expectations than the 34-year old Matheny. And as for Cruz, the money saved by sticking with him over Vizquel could have been used to put together a better offer for whichever outfielder we’re gonna make a pitch for.

In the end, yes, the team is better. I simply don’t agree with Sabean’s approach as he retools his starting nine. The market has reset itself, so looking at the money thrown around lately, I guess these deals look less expensive. But without a real hitter in this lineup for another year, the team will find it almost impossible to compensate for two blackholes (and don’t forget the pitcher), regardless of Superman’s exploits. And that’s my main concern. If we end up without a real banger, you’re gonna hear how it was because we couldn’t afford it. Well, take the $5 million or so these two “defensive superstars” are making, add it to the $3 or $4 million we have left, and presto, you can land a real player.

Add a JD Drew or a Maggio Ordonez, or God forbid, a Carlos Beltran; and sure, then we’d have a remarkable transformation. If we end up with Jeremy Burnitz or Cliff Floyd in right-field, (or worse, a full-time Michael Tucker); well, 2005 won’t look so rosey.

Update: Well, looking at some of the past comments, I guess Jim wasn’t the one I had in mind. OK. Sorry, Jim. I guess we do agree on everything.

;-)

But there have been more than a couple of readers who have taken me to task for my seeming conflicted views… ’nuff said. I want a Beltran, Santa.



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All commentary is the opinion of John J Perricone unless otherwise noted.
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